My brother, mom, grandfather, and I teamed up to take care of a single hive for my first time ever keeping my own bees. My mother paid for the bees, grandfather agreed to mentor us, and my brother attended a beekeeping seminar where he ordered a nuc of Carniolan honeybees. My cousin Alex, his girlfriend Blaine, and I picked up our nucs of honeybees from the local hardware store in Late May. The nucs contained a box of 5 10″ frames with honey, the bees (of course), queen (of course), a blank frame, and some brood (I believe). Alex and Blaine ordered their 10-frame boxes off Etsy and they set up their hive in the window of the second story in their barn, in order to avoid any pests.
Now, I had received an entire 8-frame set-up from a different local beekeeper who was eager to get me started. Rick cleaned out the boxes for me and painted them. He included blank frames and two supers (additional hive boxes for the honey). Unfortunately, I couldn’t use any of his equipment because my little bro hadn’t informed me that the frames we were getting in the nuc were for a 10-frame hive. The equipment I had prepared about a month earlier didn’t match the frames of honeybees we received.
Thankfully, my grandfather Michel/bee mentor extraordinaire (no, I was not named after my grandfather) got up super early the day we received our bees and examined my equipment before I even woke up. He met up with another local beekeeper to get us a 10-frame box. The beekeeper gave us a nice forest green box already filled with honey. It was fairly heavy. When I returned with the bees, my grandfather was ready and we both cleaned the box and each frame. He also provided his old bottom board (which I would later replace with a new one), hive stand, inner cover, and roof for me to use. Grandpa Mike informed me that this box was fantastic because I didn’t need to worry about feeding my new bees sugar water. They could eat the honey provided!
Mike and I opened the nuc (well, I watched him open the nuc) and I was immediately transported back in time to when I was six years old, helping him with his old hives. I was so fascinated by how his bees worked, climbing the hill to reach a cement block that hoisted the hive and kept it level. Neither of us wore protective gear, both then and now. When I was a little girl, he would explain how bees worked, what they did for the environment, and assured me that I shouldn’t ever be afraid of them. Even their venom was good for my cardiovascular system, joints, and immune support.
The instructions on the nuc suggested we open a plug at the bottom before opening the box itself, but my grandfather chose to ignore these ridiculous directions and continued to open the box with his bare hands. A few bees flew out to enjoy the fresh air. Grandpa Mike lifted the frames one-by-one as I removed five honey-filled frames so we could replace them. The bees didn’t sting either of us during the entire process even though they were stressed. We were also informed to find the queen, but Grandpa Mike decided these directions were also ridiculous. We merely checked the empty nuc box to make sure she didn’t hang behind.
We assembled the frames so that they were centered in the box, in order for the bees to create an orderly structure. If they were not perfectly centered, there’s a risk that the wax could spill over onto other frames in a spindly fashion, increasing the chance of bee harm if we needed to check on them.
We, unlike my cousin, decided to set up the bees on a similar concrete slab as my grandfather’s old hive, from the former foundation of an old schoolhouse that sits on my parents’ property. The hive sits on the very corner of the slab, which used to be the entrance to the old single-room school. The rest of the remaining foundation contains our bee garden, which we filled with bee-friendly plants. I’ll talk about the plants in another post.
The set-up overall went very well. Even though I wanted to hang out and play with my new bees (how would one do that?), I knew I had to let them get used to their new home. My grandfather was the perfect person to help me. It was such a lovely, sentimental experience, filled with the smells of honey and propolis.